How would you characterize those union negotiations?

“The negotiations have honestly tapered off. We’ve transitioned to direct discussions with Senate and House staff rather than one-on-one conversations with the United Farm Workers Union.

“There was progress made between agriculture and labor advocates over the broad framework. However, when we got into the details of what a wage rate would be and what cap calculations would be, there wasn’t agreement between (the sides).”

What about capping the number of workers that can come into the country annually?

“That’s a huge issue. Frankly, it’ll make or break the program. If the cap is set too low, we’ll be forced to hire underground or go offshore.

(The cap) must be done carefully. The American Farm Bureau and the Agricultural Workforce Coalition opposes an arbitrary, statutory cap. But politically caps seem to be a reality. So, we’re trying to fine-tune in a way that meets agriculture’s needs and provides an ample supply of labor.”

Any indication when this will be taken up in earnest on the floor?

“From all reports, we expect to see something released publically in the next week, or so. We’ll see if that pans out.

“I think the goal is to have this in committee in May and on the floor in the summer. Maybe it will be even sooner.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that something can be achieved this year. For agriculture this is a very important issue. We need to make sure we get this fixed and the opportunity is available.” 

               You might also like:

Contaminants a thorn in the side of U.S. cotton exports

USDA Planting Intentions timing off for Southern corn producers